If your software team is housed in the Azure infrastructure, it’s almost certain that Azure DevOps project management is a top priority. Azure DevOps has long been a fan favorite for its integrated testing and development capabilities, and it comes with a wealth of features designed by agile teams for agile teams. Integrating Azure DevOps agile methodologies to your process can optimize the way teams collaborate on all dev work.
If you’ve just been assigned to an Azure DevOps software project, you’re probably asking yourself: “How do I set up Azure DevOps for project management?” That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide for those making their way around Azure Boards for the first time.
What is Azure DevOps, and what are Azure Boards?
Azure DevOps, sometimes referred to as ADO, is Microsoft Azure’s end-to-end software project management solution. Designed on agile principles, it enables cross-functional teams to track and collaborate on software applications from concept to delivery.
Azure DevOps consists of five services, one of which is Azure Boards. This is where all project management activities happen. Teams use it to track and organize their daily work activities and to pull up custom reports on how the work is going and where things can improve. Furthermore, it also comes with built-in support for Scrum and Kanban methodologies.
Project management features in Azure DevOps
At the broadest level, here’s how project management works in Azure DevOps.
A project in Azure DevOps is a container to manage work. At Unito, we refer to these containers as blocks of work. Depending on your business goals, you could set up a new project for a specific work goal, or map projects to the software products you’re building.
Each project has its own process type. Azure Boards comes with four built-in process types – basic, agile, scrum, and CMMI – with integrated templates for each type. Based on what each project calls for, you can set up an “inherited” process type with the extra fields and nomenclature of your choice.
Projects are populated by users – in the software context, these are usually developers. Project managers can invite Azure DevOps users to one or more projects and then assign permissions for different activities to each user. Users are put into teams where they can collaborate on tasks and update task statuses as they go.
So, if you’re collaborating with people from another organization, you can invite them to join the project as Azure Guests. You get to decide what features they have access to, versus what your in-house users have.
Your ADO backlogs list work items in order of priority. This allows you to have higher-level backlogs for each project, as well as specific backlogs for each iteration (more on that below).
Areas are used to split up the work into manageable categories. Consequently, you can create areas in ADO based on different functions in a project (like metrics, security, QA, or UX), or use them to map what a team is doing across multiple projects (such as a security area for all the developers doing security work).
Iterations are used to plan when work happens. If you’re running your project in Scrum, Iterations take the form of Sprints where you execute a fixed number of work items over periods between one and four weeks long. The idea is to learn as you go and quickly pivot if something needs to change.
For each project, you specify the Iteration pathways, and then the team picks the ones that they will implement. Each Iteration will typically have its own backlog of work items that the team will pull from and check off one by one.
Boards organize the work for each project or iteration and display the status of work items as they move toward completion. Each Azure DevOps work item is represented by a card. As the status of the card changes, it moves from left to right on the board.
Every project manager can set up a dashboard in Azure DevOps to:
- Assess the status of each project or each iteration;
- Keep track of who’s in charge of which task;
- Monitor workflows throughout the software development cycle.
Why use Azure DevOps for agile projects?
Ease of use
Azure DevOps agile projects are a breeze to work with for any PM. And, as mentioned above, you can create projects and add new users with a few clicks, while assigning tasks to users and to different work boards is a simple matter of drag and drop. Your dashboard lets you set up custom task parameters and tweak workflows to suit each project – or you could keep things simple and use one of the pre-loaded templates.
Azure Boards are designed so that teams on the same projects and iterations can collaborate easily. There’s a lot of visibility, which means issues get spotted sooner. The custom reporting function offers teams more granular data on even the smallest work items. What does this translate to? Faster problem-solving, better communication, and more innovative thinking as teams ideate together in real time
As an open-source platform, Azure DevOps can sync with just about anything. No matter what feature you’re looking to add, the Azure marketplace will have an extension for you, including Unito!
Should I use Azure DevOps for project management?
Granted, Azure DevOps doesn’t have every single project management feature out there. However, as an all-in-one package it will help you deliver software faster and more reliably, regardless of how big or complex your developer team is? You’ll be hard pressed to find something better.
But maybe you don’t use the Azure infrastructure. Or you’re collaborating with a team that works exclusively on Jira. Or you’re just not ready to migrate from your existing project management platform yet.
No problem! Unito helps you get the best of both worlds with its two-way workflow management solution. With just a few clicks, you can sync tasks and projects across Azure DevOps and the other platform. In brief, everyone stays and works on the platform they’re comfortable with while still being in the loop at all times – seamless collaboration, guaranteed.
Want to know more?
Get a full breakdown of Unito's integration for Azure DevOps, including supported fields, use cases, and ideal tool pairings.